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The National Hunt Chase 2016 Result
Tue, Mar 15th, 2016

MASSIVE MINELLA GIVES O'NEILL SIXTH WIN

Minella Rocco's win in the National Hunt Chase was a record sixth success in the race for trainer Jonjo O'Neill - and his 26th training victory at The Festival in total. It was also a 45th Festival winner for Minella Rocco's owner J P McManus, who is the most successful owner in the meeting's history.

Six-year-old Minella Rocco, a son of Shirocco, won by a length and a quarter from Native River at odds of 8/1.

O'Neill said: "He's a massive big horse with a massive stride on him and you have to give him a bit of room [at a fence]. He [jockey Derek O'Connor] got him into a lovely rhythm, and he stays well. He's just a decent horse, isn't he?

"I'd say the ground is key to him - decent ground is a big plus. It's been quite soft here a few times over the winter [he pulled up at Cheltenham in December and finished unplaced here in January]. He was a bit disappointing at Haydock [on his first run of the season, when he finished third of three in a novices' chase] - I thought he was good enough over two and a half miles and he wasn't."

Commenting on his tremendous record in the National Hunt Chase, O'Neill said: "I've been lucky enough to have the good horses and the good lads riding them, which makes my job easy. It is great for the team at home, who put a lot of work in - it's great to see them rewarded. It's good to get one on the board on the first day and takes the pressure off a bit."

O'CONNOR WINS THIRD FESTIVAL RACE THANKS TO MINELLA ROCCO

Perennial Irish point-to-point champion Derek O'Connor rode his third Festival winner when driving Minella Rocco to victory in the National Hunt Chase for owner J P McManus and trainer Jonjo O'Neill.

The 11-time champion of his sport was offered the ride on runner-up Native River, who was beaten one and a quarter lengths, with Measureofmydreams another six lengths further back.

Curiously O'Connor has yet to pick up a ride in Friday's 'amateurs' Gold Cup' - the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase, although he does partner Upswing for McManus and O'Neill in Thursday's Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Chase.

O'Connor, who won the National Hunt Chase in 2011 on Chicago Grey, said: "The horse gave me a tremendous ride and jumped fabulously down the back. There have been questions over his jumping, but I would never let anyone do that again - when I really needed him it was his strong point, big and bold. They went a ferocious gallop which played to his strengths, and it was fabulous for me to ride a winner for J P McManus and Jonjo O'Neill - it's a fairytale.

"Jonjo has been a hero of mine for years, and J P has been so good for racing. To be involved with such people is pretty special.

"I schooled the horse at Jonjo's a week last Monday, and we popped eight fences - Jonjo didn't tie my hands, he said 'go and enjoy the horse and get him into a rhythm; he stays and he's well'. I dropped towards the back early, but when they go tired in front my fellow stayed all the way to the line. He has a huge amount of potential.

"I felt very sad to turn down Native River - it was a horrible decision for me - but I'm very glad the horse has run so well. Both horses ran cracking races. The owners were very understanding - they are racing people."

Minella Rocco was bought by McManus for £260,000 at the first Cheltenham Festival Sale, held in 2014. The third such auction takes place in the winners' enclosure after racing on Thursday.

NATIVE RIVER DELIGHTS TIZZARD

Colin Tizzard could not hide his joy with Native River's run in the National Hunt Chase, after the six-year-old stayed on well to finish one and a quarter lengths behind Minella Rocco, at odds of 7/1. The Brocade Racing-owned son of Indian River was ridden by Michael Legg.

Tizzard said: "I think he ran every bit as well as we could of hoped for, he jumped fluently and stayed four miles well. It was a lovely performance, I'm absolutely delighted.

"He was just slightly lacking in pace, he was fifth or sixth jumping the last but he stayed on again well. He has done us proud."

Commenting on where he might run next, Tizzard continued: "He will stay in novice company. We will probably try him at three and quarter miles at Aintree I would have thought. Michael (Legg) gave him a lovely ride, he did a damn good job."

Katie Walsh, who finished third on the Willie Mullins-trained Measureofmydreams, who started at odds of 9/1, said: "The first mile he didn't jump that well and it took him a while to get going, but when he got going he was brilliant.

"Top of the hill, I thought he was in with a chance of winning."

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The National Hunt Chase Challenge Trophy is a steeplechase restricted to amateur riders and novice chasers. It is the longest race at the Cheltenham Festival and is run over 4 miles.  The race is often simply referred to as "the four miler".

The Grand Annual is an older race but was not run during the late 1800s and consequently the race for the National Hunt Chase Challenge Trophy has been run more times than any other at the Festival. The 2015 renewal will be the 155th. The biggest post-war field size was 37 (1948) and the smallest 13 (1993). There is now a safety limit of 20 runners.

The race has proved a good guide to future success in recent seasons.

The 2007 winner Butler's Cabin subsequently won the Irish Grand National, while 2006 victor Hot Weld landed a memorable double in 2007 by collecting the Scottish National and the Sandown Gold Cup in the space of a week. The 2007 John Smith's Grand National victor Silver Birch finished fourth in 2004. The 2009 winner Tricky Trickster took the Grade Two AON Chase at Newbury the following year. The 2011 runner-up, Beshabar, went on to win the Scottish National at Ayr a month later. Maintaining this trend Shutthefrontdoor finished 6th in the 2014 renewal before going on to win the Irish Grand National a month later.

NATIONAL HUNT CHASE STATS

  • 12 year fate of favourite :  1/4 5 3 F 5 4 5 1 1 1 9 0
  • 12 year market position of winner :  1 0 0 0 4 5 7 1 1 1 4 3
  • Respect Johnjo O'Neill trained entries
  • Paul Nicholls has yet to win this race
  • 5 & 6 year olds have a poor record
  • JP McManus is the leading owner with 5 wins

NATIONAL HUNT CHASE WINNERS 2006-2015

NATIONAL HUNT CHASE MOST SUCCESSFUL OWNER
J P McManus is the most successful owner with five wins - Bit Of A Skite (1983), Front Line (1995), Rith Dubh (2002) and Butler's Cabin (2007) & Cause of Causes last year.

NATIONAL HUNT CHASE MOST SUCCESSFUL TRAINER
Jonjo O'Neill with five wins is the most successful trainer since 1946 - Front Line (1995), Rith Dubh (2002), Sudden Shock (2003), Native Emperor (2004) and Butler's Cabin (2007).

NATIONAL HUNT CHASE MOST SUCCESSFUL JOCKEY
Nine jockeys have each ridden two winners of the National Hunt Chase since 1946 and they are the race's most successful - Bunny Cox, Dermot Daly, George Small, J T McNamara, John Fowler, Marcus Armytage, John Fowler, Tony Martin and Willie Mullins.

NATIONAL HUNT CHASE BETTING
The biggest shocks were provided by Topsham Bay (1990) and Another Rum (2005), both 40/1 shots. Castledermot, 6/4 favourite in 1949, is the shortest-priced victor among 15 market leaders in 65 post-war runnings (23 per cent).

NATIONAL HUNT CHASE RECORD TIME
Flimsy Truth, a 33/1 chance, set a record post-war time of 8 mins 11.09s in 1998, but that was beaten by Relaxation, who scored in 8 mins 0.60s in 2000.

NATIONAL HUNT CHASE OVERSEAS-TRAINED WINNERS
IRELAND (16): Castledermot (1949); Pontage (1953), Quare Times (1954); Dorimont (1964); Mr Midland (1974); Gay Tie (1978); Artic Ale (1979); Hazy Dawn (1982); Bit Of A Skite (1983); Macks Friendly (1984); Omerta (1986); Loving Around (1996); Deejaydee (1999); Another Rum (2005); Chicago Grey (2011) Back in Focus (2013) Cause of Causes 2015.

NATIONAL HUNT CHASE AGE OF WINNER

The oldest winners in the post-war period are the 11-year-olds Prattler (1946), Red Vale (1965), Waggoners Walk (1980) and Flimsy Truth (1997).

The youngest winner in the same period is the five-year-old Gay Tie (1978).

The overall breakdown by age since 1946 is as follows:
5yo - 1 win
6yo - 6 wins
7yo - 24 wins
8yo - 21 wins
9yo - 7 wins
10yo - 4 wins
11yo - 4 wins

NATIONAL HUNT CHASE FEMALE JOCKEYS

Katie Walsh, whose father Ted and brother Ruby had both enjoyed great success at The Festival, joined an elite group of female riders to have won at the Cheltenham Festival when riding Poker De Sivola to beat her sister in law Nina Carberry in the 2010 race on Becauseicouldntsee.

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